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The Herald on the Hill

Veteran Suicide: A Growing Epidemic

Jake Fischer, Writer

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If you Google search Veteran Suicide, you will have to scroll past 19 different articles, all the way to the third page of Google searches, before you find one mention of a Veteran who committed suicide. It’s a touchy subject; nobody wants to talk about our heroes dying. It’s a silent epidemic. Over 20 veterans a day kill themselves. This number is thought to be much higher though because it comes from the VA research department that has no way of actually tracking veterans after service.

Paul Shuping, a Navy Veteran, shot himself in a VA Medical Centers’ parking garage with a .22-caliber rifle. Family members reported that Shuping most likely killed himself because after two years of fighting with the VA for the full benefits that he deserved, he was denied. Starved for financial means, Shuping saw no other resort. Shuping was left in the garage for six days before he was discovered.

Shuping is just one of 20 plus United States Military Veterans a day who kill themselves in unbelievably brutal fashions. The most recent data from the VA shows, “in 2014, Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults, while Veterans constituted 8.5% of the US population.” Veterans, like Shuping, survive the horrors of war only to die in their house, cars, and offices, just because the VA refuses to give them full benefits. The benefits they deserve. With a growing female population in our military, female veteran suicide has increased drastically: 85.2% since 2001.

There are two main factors in the veteran suicide epidemic: the VA itself, and military culture.

Military culture is mainly to blame. If we change the military culture, we will treat the cause of the illness. The VA won’t have to stop veterans from killing themselves in the first place; the culture is the root of many of the problems veterans are facing today. From the first day of basic training, the military teaches young 18-year-old boys and girls that pain is only temporary. The military teaches that becoming a numb and faceless creature is the only way to survive a war.

Recently, “Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard blogged, ‘I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their lives so that others can clean up their mess…. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.’”

Clearly, the culture of the military needs to change. Being mad at veterans for resorting to taking their lives is no way to prevent further suicides. Yes, surviving a war is key to training a soldier, but is it necessary to push the soldiers to the brink of death and then turn your back on them in their times of need? If we soften our responses to the soldiers in danger, especially those struggling with PTSD we will likely find a lowering of veteran suicide.

Many Americans have heard of PTSD, but very few understand what it is. Senior Greta Litte, an expert in Psychology, explained the Herald in a recent interview that PTSD is, “A way for the brain to release stress hormones. These hormones bring back traumatic memories that can cause hallucinations and panic attacks in many patients. These stress hormones are often released by things such as sparks or terrible dreams about stressful events, such as sexual assaults, physical assaults, car accidents, natural disasters, and most commonly, war.” Little then went on to explain the side effects of PTSD, “It can restrict you from having close relationships with family and friends or being able to focus on your work and can even prevent patients from sleeping at all during the night, thus driving them to the brink of death.”

When asked about how the military is coping with PTSD, and how they prevent it, Little reminded the Herald, “PTSD will not impact every person in war. But a growing number of soldiers, one in six Iraq veterans, are experiencing PTSD.” Little continued to describe the process in which soldiers are prepared for war, “To begin training, soldiers are briefed. This is basically a forewarning, but in a physical sense, so, for example, a soldier may be surprised by a jump in basic training by a person a machine a noise, or anything of the sorts, that will help their brain get used to trauma, thus preventing the secretion of stress hormones, in excess, in the brain that are inevitable during war.”

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The news site of Pope John Paul II High School.
Veteran Suicide: A Growing Epidemic